Delisting Ag-Impaired Streams in Central PA

Photo credit: Nicholas Tonelli / Flickr

 In 2019, the rapid stream delisting strategy was conceived during a pilot project aimed at prioritizing agricultural restoration projects using GIS. In 2020, partners including nonprofits, academic institutions, state, local, and federal governments together, and businesses rallied around using this data-driven approach to restore ecosystem health to 8 focal streams.

The focus is now on 19 streams, and partners have completed outreach to over 100 farmers in the region. As of the end of 2022, 42 high priority projects are fully funded and are either complete, underway, or moving forward in 2023. With an additional queue of 30+ projects and support from a diversity of funding partners, the program is nearly 50% of the way toward achieving implementation targets. Targets include 16,753 acres of land treated with Best Management Practices (BMPs) and 629 acres of riparian forest buffers in the catchment areas which drain to the priority stream segments.

With long-term ecosystem health in mind, the project partners are committed to long-term maintenance of projects. Each project has a riparian forest buffer maintenance plan that ensures follow-up monitoring visits are completed as scheduled. Partners coordinate volunteers on quarterly maintenance days to replace tree mortality, straightening/removing tree tubes and contracting with professionals where needed. Permanent conservation and preservation easements are also a priority for the next phase of the program.

This program aims to reduce agricultural impacts in local streams toward the tangible, policy outcome of “delisting” streams from the list of impaired waterways in Pennsylvania’s 2022 Integrated Water Quality Report. Collecting monitoring data on progress will help inform and change strategies; demonstrating improvements in fish and aquatic insect populations will motivate partners and farmers alike. Project partners are working with PA Dept. of Environmental Protection to create monitoring plans for each stream which may include water chemistry analysis, assessment of Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI), and/or a Stream Habitat Assessment.

If you would like to read more, see our press release.

This project has been made possible thanks to the support of the following generous funding partners:

  • The 1994 Charles B. Degenstein Foundation
  • Bunting Family Foundation
  • The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment
  • Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds
  • The Hamer Foundation
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Collaboration and Regional Conservation Partnership Programs
  • Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protections’ Growing Greener and Countywide Action Plan funding
  • Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Community Conservation Partnerships Program Grants
  • And matching funding provided by generous and dedicated project partners

Project Partners:

Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
American Farmland Trust
Bloomsburg University
Centre County Ag Land Preservation Board
Centre County Conservation District
Centre County Planning Office
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Chesapeake Conservancy
ClearWater Conservancy
Clinton County Conservation District
Halfmoon township planning commission
Huntingdon County Conservation District
Lancaster County Agland Preservation
Lock Haven University
Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association
Lycoming County Conservation District
Merrill Linn Conservancy
Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper
Mifflin County Conservation District
National Trout Unlimited
Native Creations Landscaping

Northcentral PA Conservancy
Northumberland County Conservation District
Partners for Fish and Wildlife Service
Penn State University
Penns Valley Conservation Association
Penns Valley School District
Pennsylvania DCNR
Pennsylvania DEP
Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pheasants Forever State College Chapter
Seven Willows LLC
Stroud Water Research Center
Susquehanna University
Trout Unlimited Penns Creek Chapter
Union County Conservation District
University of Montana
US Fish and Wildlife Service
USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
WHM Group
Woods and Waters Consulting